The other day, my American friend Robert Martin tweeted “Hey, @micaelgrenholm… Sweden is 5th happiest country in the world… congrats!” I jokingly responded “5th?? Now I’m definitely not happy!!” and he wrote “Well, at least 4 of the top 10 are Scandinavian… check it out. US is # 17″ Yup, Denmark was in fact number 1, and Norway number 2. All I could think about at that moment was actually racism and xenophobia.
How come? Well, a couple of years ago a Swedish journalist published a book called “The Happiest People in the World“ about racism in Denmark. While citizens enjoy a high standard of living with extensive welfare and social security, it’s very, very hard for non-whites to become such citizens. In fact, Denmark is probably the most xenophobic country in northern Europe. Even though the racist Danish People’s Party has not been part of a government, other parties have used similar rhetoric and even policies in order to prevent more people from joining them. The result is of course that DPP’s ideas of a multiethnic Denmark being a “national disaster” has formed national policies.
How about Norway, then? The day before Martin tweeted his message to me Norway had their parlamentarian election, and as the Conservative Party won they proudly announced that they would govern together with the xenophobic Progress Party. This is the first time a racist party has entered a Scandinavian government.
How do I know that they are racist? Well, for instance, they want to ban Romani people from the country. Furthermore they have all the traditional charesteristics of xenophobia: they are hostile to islam, they want to decrease immigration, they are patriotic and wants to defend “Norwegian values” against multiculturalism, etcetera.
And then we have my country, Sweden. We have our own racist party here, the Sweden Democrats, whose representatives compare islam with nazism and want to deport Syrian refugees to Jordan instead of Sweden. Fortunately though, the party has neither been a part of our government like in Norway, nor affected it in the same extent as in Denmark. Still, our conservative government manage to be quite xenophobic on their own.
Two days ago, the same day as Martin sent his message, I went together with several other activists to try to use civil disobediance in order to stop a deportation from Stockholm to Kabul, Afghanistan. Many of those that were supposed to be deported did not have passports, and the Afghani embassy had not even got any information about the deportation, which made some lawyers to speculate if Sweden actually was doing some form of human smuggling. One lawyer wrote a form of protest that demands the Migration Board to stop the deportation until, but it was quickly dismissed and the plane went to Afghanistan before the lawyer could object. Yesterday, one fo the Afghanis sent a message to the activists where he wrote that they were drugged to remain calm and that they received no help either from Swedish or Afghani authorities when they arrived, so that many of them now are homeless (some have families living in Iran!)
The same day I found that Sweden has been found guilty in the European Court of Human Rights because of deporting people into torture. Nothing new here, I actuallyhave a friend – John Kabuidibuidi – who was deported to Congo against his will and was tortured by the secret police. Sweden has been found guilty in the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) several times. The lawyer who protested against the deportation of the Afghanis was one of those who made sure that Sweden was found guilty in CAT once.
Is Scandinavia a happy place? Not for me. I am so blessed by our political and religious freedom, our free education system (when we go to college here we don’t pay for it, we receive grants), our free and advanced health care, etc. But I am constantly reminded of that some people are systematically excluded from all this. And as a follower of Christ I don’t want to look at my own interests and circumstances but I want to suffer with those who suffer and mourn with the mourning. Thus, I will continue to eagerly pray and work to fight xenophobia and racism.
Note: You may want to use Google Translate to some of the links.